May 22, 1977

My wedding day. Sheila Pettit was my bride. We married in Ellijay, Georgia.

I was 19 years old, though I had just graduated a few weeks before from Freed-Hardeman College. I was nervous, but excited.

We had dreams…and plans. First we would housesit for various people as I served as a summer Youth Minister for the Springfield Church of Christ in Springfield, VA just outside of Washington, D.C. Then in late August we would move to Philadelphia, PA where I would attend Westminster Theological Seminary.

We moved to Philly with no money. All our savings had paid tuition for the first semester. We had no jobs, but we had paid the first month’s rent on our apartment. We were going faith or perhaps naivete. Nevertheless, the Lord blessed us. We both found jobs within two weeks–including a preaching opportunity at the NE Philadelphia Church of Christ.

We had dreams. We planned to serve God in Germany, perhaps behind the Iron Curtain.

That first year was exhiliarting, and as with all first years of marriage a learning experience…learning to adjust to each other in our love.

We experienced tragedy that first year. Sheila had a miscarriage. But we were surrounded with a healing community in our small church.

It began on May 22, 1977…29 years ago today. It ended on April 30, 1980 when she died.

May 21 and May 22 come right after each other. I sort of wish they were spread out a bit. Those two days bring a mixture of sadness and joy to my heart. They are part of the stuff of my life and give meaning to my life.

And they (Joshua and Sheila) have shaped my life and enable me to be the person I am–whatever that is worth. But it is worth something because God has given me love once again and the joy of relationship and intimacy with Jennifer.

God be praised. He gives and he takes away, but he keeps on giving…and one day his gift will be without end.

18 Responses to “May 22, 1977”

  1.   Angel Says:

    I am sorry for your loss. I have nothing to say, not having experienced such heart ache. But reading your thoughts made me halt. My husband and I made a similar journey almost 10 years ago. We left Abilene to go to Westminster, having no jobs and I 5 months pregnant. The Lord quickly provided and part of his provision was a job at the NE church. I grew so much there and have such fond memories of Philadelphia. I will be taking both our boys there this summer to see where they were born. Thanks for the memories.

  2.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    Indeed, we have a shared a common journey…school, church and city. I just returned from Philly yesterday morning after participating in a men’s retreat. I miss it, and the memories linger. But has given us both different ministries to pursue in other places. God seems to make everything new, doesn’t he? The old gives way to the new, and the joy is deepened even as the sorrow slowly (all too slowly) passes away…till we reach the point that all things will become new and all the old will pass away and there will be no more death, mourning, pain or tears.

  3.   Steve Puckett Says:

    I often reflect on our days at F-HC with fondness. God has certainly refined you with fire since. Be sure you are in my prayers and thoughts.

    I lost my Dad in January after a long battle with Alzheimers. Losing someone close to your heart is always very difficult at whatever age it happens, but your path has been espeically difficult.

    Thank you for your godly perspective and for your ministry to others.


  4.   TCS Says:

    Challenged once again. I ache for your loss and sufferings.

  5.   GarethF Says:

    Thanks for all that you did for us this weekend at Manatawny. I continue to hear positive comments. Thanks for your generosity in sharing your story and your book with those that are struggling. I went back to retrieve a book and they were gone. It only goes to show you how common struggle and loss are to life. I started Kingdom Come last night… excellent!

  6.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    Gareth, I enjoyed the time at the camp. It is always helpful for me to challenge others because it is much more of a challenge to me as I confront myself more than any other. Thanks for inviting me, my brother.

  7.   KMiV Says:

    John Mark,
    Once again–I have always appreciated your openness and sharing this with your students, Christian family, and others. I remember your comment about people coming to a funeral and saying, “doesn’t she look good?” I have used that illustration often, especially in our Job class on Sunday mornings.

    In Christ,
    Ron Clark

  8.   dagwud Says:

    I didn’t know Sheila, but I knew Josh and you. “Wonderful” is not a good enough word to describe the two of you.

    God Bless You today!


  9.   RC Says:

    I have never understood why you have had to deal with what seems to me to be too much. I have often thought about how little I did for you, and for this I have been so ashamed and I am so sorry. I still can’t believe that I had the honor to work with you for seven years. You were such a blessing to Ross Road. I always felt like I was surrounded by a staff that was in another league, but it only made me better. Your mother continues to be a blessing to my mom, what a wonderful person your mother is. God bless, and keep sharing yourself through your writing. It helps us all.

  10.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    Thanks, both Richards!

    Richard May–your family has meant much to me, including all the Cecils! 🙂

    Richard Corum–you helped more than you know, my brother.

    John Mark

  11.   RC Says:

    John Mark:

    I needed to say what I did for a long time and I needed to say it in some type of public forum. After my heart surgery I have not cared so much about what people have thought about me. Life is so short and I don’t want to go to my grave without finding ways to say I am sorry for times when I have really failed people, and I probably failed you and your family above anyone else. I could have done so much and that has eaten at me from the moment of Joshua’s funeral. Your remarks have given me a measure of peace for which I do not deserve, but deeply appreciate. You are a good man. Thank you.


  12.   Josh.Graves Says:

    John Mark,

    What I appreciate about you most is the immediacy with which the story of God intersects your life.

    There’s no “how do I go back to that world and bridge it to the current one.” With you, there is a sense that the story of God and your story are one and the same.

    That’s why you lament, celebrate, grieve, and laugh in the same paragraph.

    You’re one of our finest scholars, one of our most passionate disciples.

    Peace be with you.


  13.   Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    I did not know Sheila either. But it has been a privilege to know Rachel, Josh, Ashley (somewhat) and Jennifer.

    God has molded you and used you in ways that even one as smart as you cannot understand.

    I have learned to love you deeply as a brother.

    Bobby V

  14.   Missionary's Missionary Says:

    Love’s Prayers…Dottie

  15.   Michele Says:

    I read with such sadness about all the pain and suffering you have undergone. You’ve experienced such loss! May our God comfort you and bless you as you confirm that one day you will see them and be united once again, forever.

    Our family has been experiencing much grief these past few months, and what we are finding is that God is always there, even when there are no words.

    God bless you to be able to find the words again. You have ministered to me by your writings.

    May the peace of the Lord be with you.

  16.   bradfordlstevens Says:

    Psalm 116:15: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”

    It is only with the eye of faith that we can cling to this promise. Your words and example are a template for many who have yet to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. God is not done yet! May the Lord grant to you His shaloam.

    Grace and Peace,

    Bradford L. Stevens
    St. Louis, MO

  17.   julie Says:

    John Mark, I have known you for a very long time and I remember Sheila. She was such a sweet and gentle spirit. I know that she blessed your life and I know that she has colored your journey with loving memories and grief. You are steadfast in your walk and show us all how to go on…even when it is tougher and bigger than we think that we can handle. I remember you raising your hands to God at Zoe and saying, “And yet will I praise Him.” Thank you for that.

  18.   JD Says:

    Hi John Mark. I have not had much time to frequent the blogs since Katrina came ashore. But this morning I decided to click on your link and see what you were talking about these days. In a bittersweet way I’m glad that you haven’t posted since May 22. I likely would have missed your thoughts … and the memories they provoked within my heart as well. I’m really glad that our paths keep intersecting at various locations and times. Your warm greeting and your many encouragements have enriched my life. God bless you my friend.

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